Sixty-year-old Grace Amon has a sharp stare, the kind that tells you nothing goes past her. A few years ago Amon was slowly going blind until the late Rev Carlton Gleason, a missionary arrived in the deep wild plains of Laikipia county.
Gleason, an American and his wife first came to the region 17 years ago to visit his conservationist daughter who was living in Segera Ranch.
Gleason, at the time was 88 years old. He was so moved by the plight of the villagers that he went back to the US and sold all his property, including shares in various companies, and used the money to start Segera Mission.
The mission sits on a 26-acre farm and provides food, education, healthcare and spiritual nourishment to the residents. By the time he died at the age of 94, Gleason or Pappy as he was fondly called had changed the narrative of the region and the smiles on the face of the women and children in the area tell it all. “In the past we lived like wild animals.
We disposed the dead in the forests. We did not have even a single toilet. When we fell sick, we looked for wild herbs. Since padiri came here a lot has changed. Our lives have transformed greatly,” Ayien Maria, one of the beneficiaries of the programme narrates.
“Our mission is to give the people of this remote area a chance for a better life,” says Serge Musasilwa, Segera Mission director. He took over the management of the project seven years ago after Gleason’s death.
Today, the mission covers an area of 600 square kilometres and reflects a mixture of life-transforming projects including a water supply programme to a community consisting of people who were once Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Beyond that, the institution has also built a number of water pans and small dams and taught the community members how to harvest water. Much of the water, according to the community chairman, Esitera Apo, is used for irrigating small farms where they are now planting maize, beans and vegetables for self-sufficiency.
“We depended only on our cows, goats and sheep, and when cattle rustlers took them away, we didn’t have any alternative,” he adds. Every month, patients converge at the mission to seek for medical care; in addition mothers come on Fridays for immunisation campaigns, on Mondays for the malnutrition programme, as well as pre- and post-natal care in the course of the week. Thanks to the clinic, mortality in children has dropped in the area from 17 per cent to under one per cent, according to records at the dispensary.
The resident nurse, Alex Ong’uko confirmed that some people walk for up to 20km to come to the clinic for medical care. “Together with a nutrition programme, we are implementing other health projects including tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and HIV/Aids.
And due to the various challenges such as the distances to the clinic, which is the nearest at 24km, we have trained Community Health Workers (CHWs) to act as a bridge,” he added.
The clinic has trained more than 40 Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAS) who have also become CHWs. “Through groups we have formed, we evaluate pregnant women every second Wednesday of the month in the nearby villages.
In the whole of Laikipia North, there is no health facility with the highest visits than Segera,” added Musasilwa. To fight food insecurity Musasilwa said the centre has enrolled up to 326 vulnerable children for a feeding programme where they give them breakfast and lunch.
“Through the nutrition programme which we implement together with the agriculture project on our farm and the kitchen gardens we have taught the community to establish, we have been able to save children with acute malnutrition,” Musasilwa said.